The striking development of UAVs (drones) is unleashing their increasing application in civilian and military scenarios, including remote sensing, search and rescue, structure and site inspections, shipping and delivery, agricultural monitoring, intelligence and reconnaissance. Serious cybersecurity concerns have also been raised about UAVs, which are now being looked upon as targets of cyber-attacks or potential attack vectors for malicious actors.
Dr. Jiawei Yuan, assistant professor of Computer & Information Science at UMass Dartmouth’s College of Engineering, is the recipient of a $150K award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the project “SaTC: EDU: Collaborative: Bolstering UAV Cybersecurity Education through Curriculum Development with Hands-on Laboratory Framework.” The project seeks to improve UAV and cybersecurity education through the development of curriculum materials and hands-on laboratory platforms.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the number of UAVs around the globe is expected to reach 3.7 million by 2022. UAV-related jobs are expected to hit 100,000 by 2025, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a UAV industry group. “Addressing the cybersecurity concerns raised by UAVs is a critical task to regulate their operations,” says Yuan. Yuan and team will build awareness and competence to respond to a dynamic and rapidly developing array of cyber threats, especially those in emerging UAV applications. “Most drone crashes are due to cyberattacks, such as GPS spoofing, adding that cybercriminals can counterfeit GPS navigation signals then broadcast them at a UAV, effectively bringing the aircraft under their control.”
Xiaolin Xu, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Houbing Song, assistant professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, are collaborating with Yuan on the three-year project that totals $500K in NSF awards.
Undergraduate and graduate assistants will also assist with educational components for computer science and engineering. The project is the first to provide education materials, including hands-on labs on UAV cybersecurity systematically. "We expect outcomes of this project to be widely adopted by the universities in the U.S. and around the world,” says Yuan.